Case In Point
Landlord Required to Give Additional Notice to Tenants as Religious Accommodation
Date: May 18, 2017
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (Tribunal) has recently found that a landlord’s statutory right to show an occupied rental unit with 24 hours’ notice may be limited by a tenant’s requests for accommodation.
In Madkour v. Alabi, a Muslim married couple (the Applicants) rented an apartment in the home of the landlord (the Respondent). Due to various disagreements between them, the parties agreed to terminate the lease. The landlord then proceeded to give the Applicants notice that he would conduct viewings of their apartment with prospective tenants on a particular date. The Applicants requested that in addition to 24 hours’ notice, they be provided with notice one hour before any viewing of their residence so that they could be “prepared.”
Initially, the Applicants did not advise the landlord of the religious reasons for their request. However, following several heated exchanges between the parties and a visit from the police, the Applicants informed the landlord that they needed additional notice for religious reasons and also required visitors (including the landlord) to take their shoes off inside the home to maintain the cleanliness of their prayer spaces.
Vice-chair Pickel found that the Applicants’ requests had a nexus to their religion and were necessary so that:
- the wife could change into more modest attire before being seen by strangers
- the couple could arrange their times to pray before and after viewings, and
- the couples’ bedroom where they held prayers could remain clean.
The landlord did not provide a bona fide reason for not granting the Applicants’ request for additional advance notice. In particular, the landlord did not always provide adequate advanced notice of viewings, which made it impossible for the Applicants to modify their schedules in order that the viewing could take place without interrupting or prohibiting their prayers. Furthermore, the Vice-chair found that the landlord’s refusal to remove his shoes represented “vexatious conduct” and when combined with his other actions – namely, making “pounding noises outside the Applicants’ door” and commenting “welcome to Ontario Canada” – constituted harassment under the Human Rights Code.
Despite the fact that none of the viewings actually interrupted or prohibited the Applicants’ use of their bedroom for prayer, the Vice-chair awarded each applicant $6,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. In addition, the Respondent was required to take the e-learning module on the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s website.
This case may have broader implications, as the analysis which led to the finding of failure to provide religious accommodation outlined above could also apply in the context of other Code-protected grounds. For instance, a landlord might be required to give additional notice to a family or person with an infant, based on the duty to accommodate for family status.